Court again orders Pritzker agency to answer why unfit detainees aren’t transferred

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(The Center Square) – The director of the Illinois Department of Human Services must again appear before a Sangamon County judge to answer why the state isn’t taking jail detainees for a fitness evaluation.

Sangamon County Circuit Court Chief Judge John Madonia on Tuesday ordered IDHS Secretary Grace Hou to court June 28 to answer for two different felony cases.

One case deals with an individual charged with possession of explosives and incendiary devices from August of last year. The defendant was found unfit to stand trial in May. Another is a criminal damage to property case filed in January and the defendant was found unfit in May.

The state is supposed to take such criminal defendants into state custody for a fitness evaluation.

“If they’re found unfit, then they continue to be treated until such time as maybe they are found to have been restored and go into a court process,” Illinois Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director Jim Kaitschuk previously told The Center Square.

The two orders Tuesday mark the fourth rule by the court for Hou to show cause in recent months. One resulted in a contempt of court citation before the department transferred a detainee to a facility in Springfield for a fitness evaluation.

Kaitschuk said what’s happening is a waste of taxpayer resources.

“I’ll have a court hearing that’s scheduled for tomorrow and suddenly today, I found an available bed. How does that happen? Right. Just as I go to court, I find some space. Time after time after time,” Kaitschuk said.

Spokespeople for IDHS didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment in response to the lawsuit.

Sangamon County has a separate pending challenge against the governor’s COVID-19 executive orders dealing with inmate transfers that were first issued in April 2020 and recently modified as early as last month. It’s expected other county sheriffs experiencing similar circumstances could join the lawsuit.

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July 19, 2022 at 12:18PM

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